President Considers a New Command for General Fremont

March 18, 1863

President meets with Indiana Congressman George W. Julian who pushes a new posting for General John C. Frémont: “On the 18th of March I called on Mr. Lincoln respecting the appointments I had recommended under the conscription law, and took occasion to refer to the failure of General Fremont to obtain a command,”  He said he did not know where to place him, and that it reminded him of the old man who advised his son to take a wife, to which the young man responded ‘Whose wife shall I take?’  The President proceed to point out the practical difficulties in the way by referring to a number of important commands which might suit Fremont, butt which could only be reached by removals he did not wish to make.  I remarked that I was very sorry if this was true, and that it was unfortunate for our cause, as I believed his restoration to duty would stir the country as no other appointment could.  He said, ‘it would stir the country on one side and stir it the other way on the other. It would please Fremont’s friends, and displease the conservatives; and that is all I can see in the stirring argument.”

Historian Bruce Tap wrote: “Julian followed up his [February] speech with a visit to the White House a few weeks later, where he urged the appointment of Frémont to a military command as a way to invigorate the country and boost morale. Despite Fremont’s undistinguished performance in the Shenandoah Valley, Julian and other committee members continued to believe that his presence in the army would increase morale.  Instead of admitting to Julian that he doubted Fremont’s military abilities, the president deflected the request, telling him he did not know where to put Fremont.  He then became more candid: ‘It would stir the country on one side and stir it the other way on the other.  It would please Fremont’s friends and displease the conservatives,’ just as his Emancipation Proclamation had earlier done.  Disappointed, Julian later wrote, ‘These observations were characteristic, and showed how reluctant he was to turn away from the conservative counsels he had so long heeded.’”

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Published in: on March 18, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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